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USA 1 – 0 Panama: Analysis & player ratings

Not to be outshown by the atrocious work being done in the press box, both the United States and Panama turned in embarrassingly poor performances in what was, by far, the least attractive game of soccer in the Klinsmann era. Graham Zusi grabbed the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, lashing home a cross that the US was lucky to see bounce off the back of hapless striker Teal Bunbury’s leg inside the Panamanian area. It was a cool finish and marked one of the few times that an American shot, or even pass, found its target.

Jurgen Klinsmann, the US manager, was equally complicit in his side’s slothful display as he elected to employ the toothless 4–4–2 formation that earned his predecessor the sack. Without a creative midfielder to run the offense, the addition of a second striker was entirely negated as the central midfield pairing of Jermaine Jones and Ricardo Clark simply lack the quality to set the table for their front line. Out wide, Brek Shea looked beyond exhausted, while Graham Zusi proved that, despite his goal, he is not yet capable of playing out wide at the international level.

The defense was barely better. Though a harsh decision, Geoff Cameron didn’t exactly cover himself in glory before being sent off in the 52nd minute for a foul on Blas Perez. Michael Parkhurst, who was hailed by commentators Taylor Twellman and Ricardo Ortiz as having a world-beating positional sense, was ruthlessly exposed by a strike tandem that would be unlikely to crack most MLS lineups.

What are you doing ESPN?

If Ricardo Ortiz is allowed back in the booth for another US fixture, someone back in Bristol, CT is clearly asleep at the wheel. As the play-by-play man alongside Twellman, Ortiz simply lacks an adequate grasp of the English language. His vocabulary is limited and his cadence can at best be described as erratic. After spoiling the American public with a healthy dose of Ian Darke over the past two years, slipping the bumbling Ortiz into the broadcast was an overwhelming failure. Not that his partner did anything to bail him out. As Ortiz ended sentences with hopeful up-talk, Twellman never took the hint that his colleague needed help.

Couple their performances with at least 5 minutes of blurry footage from a blimp floating through the Panama City night, and this match was one of the worst soccer broadcasts in recent memory. (I’m aware they used Panamanian feeds, but come on.)

Player ratings

In the end though, these games don’t matter outside of how individual players performed in their quest to crack the senior national team roster. How did they do?

Nick Rimando – 7

Came up huge for the US when he was put in some tough spots through blown coverage and letdowns in the back four tasked to protect him. Wandered a little too far at times for my liking and had some near catastrophes with the ball at his feet, but whenever Panama looked dangerous, Rimando shut the door. Can’t ask for a whole lot more than that.

Zach Loyd – 4

He’s still only 24, so there is time yet for Loyd to become a National Team contributor, but until he actually learns how to defend at the international level, his strong offensive service will matter very little. The left back did very well to cut onto his right and serve teasing balls into the Panamanian area, one resulting in Zusi’s sole tally, but ultimately he had to be sacrificed after he was repeatedly beaten with ease on his wing.

Michael Parkhurst – 4.5

After receiving many plaudits for his largely unpressured performance against Venezuela, Parkhurst was found wanting at nearly every turn against Perez and Renteria. One of the enduring images of the match is Perez rising to direct a header goalward with Parkhurst stranded in no man’s land in front of him. If these two games represented Parkhurst’s shot with the National Team under Klinsmann, then we are unlikely to see him again anytime soon.

Geoff Cameron – 3.5

Cameron’s red card will be debated for a while. My stance is that it was not a foul. After getting in behind the US defense, Blas Perez butchers his first touch so badly that Cameron was able to catch up to the play. Yes there was contact, but at the moment of incident, Cameron had established himself between Perez and the ball. Of course we all know the rest: Perez rolls around like he was caught in a bear trap, and Cameron sees red. Disappointing stuff from Cameron, who despite this setback deserves more chances with the US. Unlike Michael Parkhurst, we still don’t know what Cameron’s ceiling is, and he must get more playing time to uncover it.

A.J. DeLaGarza – 4

Not the best showing for the new fullback. Much of the fault, though, lies with Graham Zusi, who consistently failed to provide his right-sided partner with any support whatsoever. Still, DeLaGarza needs to be quicker at getting rid of the ball, whether Klinsmann asks his defense to possess out of the back or not.

Brek Shea – 3

I’m predicted a very slow, poor 2012 for the American prodigy. And if it comes true, FC Dallas and the US fans will have Jurgen Klinsmann to thank. Just because a player is young does not mean his body doesn’t need rest. After featuring in almost every match for Klinsmann in 2011, Shea has continued to play through the winter, beginning first with a month training in spell with Arsenal, before joining up with the US camp. Shea looked lethargic and exhausted against Panama, and he had none of his usually pace or guile, with or without the ball. The result was by far his worst performance in a US shirt. Not to jinx the player, but if he continues at this breakneck pace, I fear an injury or massive dip in form for the enormously talented youngster.

Jermaine Jones – 6.5

The best player for the US for the second time this week, though his performance left much to be desired. With no proper playmaker in front of him, Jones powered forward on long (often ill-advised) dribbling forays. He lacks the touch in his passing game to be a true creator and proved on the day just how necessary it is for the US to anoint a creative, attacking central midfielder, and fast.

Ricardo Clark – 4

Fairly anonymous, jittery in his passing, and lacking in confidence, Clark joined Jones in allowing Panama entirely too much space in the center of the park. He also did his defenders no favors by allowing Gabriel Gomez to dink chips into the box without a lick of defensive pressure to speak of. With so much depth at the defensive center midfield role, Clark deserves to be very low on the totem pole.

Graham Zusi – 6

Earns an extra two points for scoring the only goal. It was a cool finish and ultimately secured the victory for the US. But, as in the Venezuelan friendly, Zusi showed that he is far, far away from being prepared to play at the international level. His failure to play defense and support his fullback, DeLaGarza, put the converted Galaxy center back under pressure throughout. When in possession, Zusi took too many touches and was dispossessed with ease while never really being a factor in the build-up on those rare occasion that the red, white and blue strung a few passes together.

Teal Bunbury – 2

Teal Bunbury is an exciting young talent with a definite future with US soccer. That said, he did not do a single thing right in Panama City. His first touch was brutally heavy, his hold-up play was non-existent, his passing was wayward, and when he finally got a look at goal, he couldn’t hit the target. His sole moment of influence was on Zusi’s goal, where the US were fortunate that he wildly miskicked Zach Loyd’s cross, allowing it to rebound off the back of his non-shooting leg.

Chris Wondolowski – 2

The always witty Adam Cann texted me during the game, “Bunbury + Wondolowski = Bunbury”. How many more times are we going to have to endure Wondolowski in an American shirt? Against a spirited, quick Panama, Wondo’s lack of world class pace was exposed as, outside of forcing a miraculous save by Luis Mejia on a header to follow Jermaine Jones’ piledriver, it is hard to remember a single moment of influence the American No. 7 had on proceedings.

Jurgen Klinsmann – 2

Whether it was playing Bob Bradley’s awful 4-4-2, waiting until FAR too late to get Sapong in the game, failing to recognize that Brek Shea was dead on his feet or starting Rico Clark, the US manager had himself a stinker on par with the performance of his players. Yuck.


Heath Pearce – 5

No glaring errors from Pearce, who came on to sure up the left side of the Union defense. As usual with Pearce, he was alright. Nothing great, nothing terrible. The definition of a stopgap.

Sean Johnson – 6

Wasn’t called on to be stellar, but did his work well. Showed his youth by too quickly serving balls out of the back when the US was looking to kill the game. But, at age 22, the 6’4″ Johnson did nothing to hurt his reputation and kept pace with Bill Hamid in the chase to be the next great, young American goalkeeper.

Jeff Parke – 5

Came in cold when Cameron was sent off and helped the US retain the clean sheet. Lots of scrambling in defense combined with a bit of luck ultimately got the job done, but it sure wasn’t pretty.

Brad Evans – 5

He played. Good for him.

Jeff Larentowicz – 5.5

Slightly more active than Clark, Larentowicz at least had the common sense to play some defense and win some physical confrontations. Still shouldn’t be in Klinsmann’s top five at his position.

C.J. Sapong – 6.5

Following Bunbury’s clunker, Sapong looked like Lionel Messi as he was actually able to run with the ball at his feet. While he wasn’t given enough time to stretch his legs adequately, Sapong’s strength, technical savvy and speed were all on display for a player whose star is rapidly on the rise. It would not be surprising if he soon overtakes his Sporting KC teammate Bunbury on the depth chart.


  1. Wow! These are your best ratings yet! I agree with everything except Wondolowski…he had poor service all game.

    • You just like it when I’m angry. Wondo did have terrible service, but he didn’t do anything about it.

      • Bunbury is your target striker. Zusi and Shea are staying wide. Wondo is either dropping into the huge gap between Clark/Jones and Bunbury or he’s wasting a shirt. Zusi as a playmaker and Wondo wide (like, other side of the touchline wide?) would have been preferable last night.

  2. Wondo sucks but he wasn’t that bad last night. should have had a goal but panama’s keeper had some big saves, particularly on wondo’s header.

  3. I like seeing Wondo on the US team and agree that with hardly any service, giving him any rating doesn’t mean much. Wish Teal was subbed off instead.

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